RSF publishes report on “Respect for media in Catalonia”
Three days before a planned referendum on independence in Catalonia, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has issued a report on the oppressive climate for media freedom in this northeastern region of Spain, where journalists are complaining of unprecedented harassment by the authorities and on social networks.
Entitled “Respect for media in Catalonia,” the report has been produced by RSF’s Spanish section as the region’s separatist parties try to press ahead with the referendum although it has been banned by Spain’s Constitutional Court.
The report describes the Catalan pro-independence government’s constant pressure on local and foreign media, harassment of critical journalists by separatist movement “hooligans” on social networks, attempts by crowds of demonstrators to intimidate TV reporters, and the generally poisonous climate for press freedom.
The report includes some of the many interviews that RSF has conducted with Catalan, Spanish and foreign journalists who have been the victims of harassment on social networks by Catalan government supporters. It draws attention to the pressure on media outlets that oppose independence and to the hostility they encounter on social networks.
The accounts of foreign correspondents in Spain, especially those based in Barcelona, illustrate the pro-independence movement’s interest in the international media and the pressure it is putting on them because they are seen as a key element in the movement’s visibility strategy.
Catalan journalists working for media outlets that oppose independence told RSF that they have been the victims of intense harassment campaigns on social networks and of policies that deliberately draw attention to them.
“The climate for journalistic freedom has suffered as a result of the dramatic polarization of Catalan politics and society,” said Pauline Adès-Mevel, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.
“Driven into a corner by the Spanish government’s intimidatory manoeuvres, the regional government has gone too far in its attempts to impose its vision on the local, Spanish and international media. The best indicator of a healthy democracy is a free press in which journalists write what they believe and refuse to censor themselves.”
This very topical report examines some of the latest developments in Catalonia and the climate of intimidation for the Catalan media resulting from the attempts by the police to implement judicial bans on referendum propaganda.
The report also includes the accounts of Spanish TV reporters at the heart of the conflict who have been stigmatized.
“We are deeply disturbed by videos from Barcelona showing attempts to intimidate TV reporters,” Adès-Mevel said. “We urge the Catalan authorities to condemn the stigmatization of the Spanish media, the attempts to blame them for a situation that is political in origin. This blaming of the media echoes the campaigns of Donald Trump and far-right movements.”
The report also examines the pressure that the pro-independence movement is trying to put on Spanish correspondents in Brussels who refer to the European Union’s reluctance to discuss the issue of Catalan independence.